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Sketches New and Old, Part 1.

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  by Mark Twain

  Part 1.

  CONTENTS (Entire ebook)

  Preface My Watch Political Economy The Jumping Frog Journalism In Tennessee The Story Of The Bad Little Boy The Story Of The Good Little Boy A Couple Of Poems By Twain And Moore Niagara Answers To Correspondents To Raise Poultry Experience Of The Mcwilliamses With Membranous Croup My First Literary Venture How The Author Was Sold In Newark The Office Bore Johnny Greer The Facts In The Case Of The Great Beef Contract The Case Of George Fisher Disgraceful Persecution Of A Boy The Judges "Spirited Woman" Information Wanted Some Learned Fables, For Good Old Boys And Girls My Late Senatorial Secretaryship A Fashion Item Riley-Newspaper Correspondent A Fine Old Man Science Vs. Luck The Late Benjamin Franklin Mr. Bloke's Item A Medieval Romance Petition Concerning Copyright After-Dinner Speech Lionizing Murderers A New Crime A Curious Dream A True Story The Siamese Twins Speech At The Scottish Banquet In London A Ghost Story The Capitoline Venus Speech On Accident Insurance John Chinaman In New York How I Edited An Agricultural Paper The Petrified Man My Bloody Massacre The Undertaker's Chat Concerning Chambermaids Aurelia's Unfortunate Young Man "After" Jenkins About Barbers "Party Cries" In Ireland The Facts Concerning The Recent Resignation History Repeats Itself Honored As A Curiosity First Interview With Artemus Ward Cannibalism In The Cars The Killing Of Julius Caesar "Localized" The Widow's Protest The Scriptural Panoramist Curing A Cold A Curious Pleasure Excursion Running For Governor A Mysterious Visit


  I have scattered through this volume a mass of matter which has neverbeen in print before (such as "Learned Fables for Good Old Boys andGirls," the "Jumping Frog restored to the English tongue after martyrdomin the French," the "Membranous Croup" sketch, and many others which Ineed not specify): not doing this in order to make an advertisement ofit, but because these things seemed instructive.



  MY WATCH--[Written about 1870.]


  My beautiful new watch had run eighteen months without losing or gaining,and without breaking any part of its machinery or stopping. I had cometo believe it infallible in its judgments about the time of day, and toconsider its constitution and its anatomy imperishable. But at last, onenight, I let it run down. I grieved about it as if it were a recognizedmessenger and forerunner of calamity. But by and by I cheered up, setthe watch by guess, and commanded my bodings and superstitions to depart.Next day I stepped into the chief jeweler's to set it by the exact time,and the head of the establishment took it out of my hand and proceeded toset it for me. Then he said, "She is four minutes slow-regulator wantspushing up." I tried to stop him--tried to make him understand that thewatch kept perfect time. But no; all this human cabbage could see wasthat the watch was four minutes slow, and the regulator must be pushed upa little; and so, while I danced around him in anguish, and implored himto let the watch alone, he calmly and cruelly did the shameful deed. Mywatch began to gain. It gained faster and faster day by day. Within theweek it sickened to a raging fever, and its pulse went up to a hundredand fifty in the shade. At the end of two months it had left all thetimepieces of the town far in the rear, and was a fraction over thirteendays ahead of the almanac. It was away into November enjoying the snow,while the October leaves were still turning. It hurried up house rent,bills payable, and such things, in such a ruinous way that I could notabide it. I took it to the watchmaker to be regulated. He asked me if Ihad ever had it repaired. I said no, it had never needed any repairing.He looked a look of vicious happiness and eagerly pried the watch open,and then put a small dice-box into his eye and peered into its machinery.He said it wanted cleaning and oiling, besides regulating--come in aweek. After being cleaned and oiled, and regulated, my watch slowed downto that degree that it ticked like a tolling bell. I began to be left bytrains, I failed all appointments, I got to missing my dinner; my watchstrung out three days' grace to four and let me go to protest;I gradually drifted back into yesterday, then day before, then into lastweek, and by and by the comprehension came upon me that all solitary andalone I was lingering along in week before last, and the world was out ofsight. I seemed to detect in myself a sort of sneaking fellow-feelingfor the mummy in the museum, and a desire to swap news with him. I wentto a watchmaker again. He took the watch all to pieces while I waited,and then said the barrel was "swelled." He said he could reduce it inthree days. After this the watch averaged well, but nothing more. Forhalf a day it would go like the very mischief, and keep up such a barkingand wheezing and whooping and sneezing and snorting, that I could nothear myself think for the disturbance; and as long as it held out therewas not a watch in the land that stood any chance against it. But therest of the day it would keep on slowing down and fooling along until allthe clocks it had left behind caught up again. So at last, at the end oftwenty-four hours, it would trot up to the judges' stand all right andjust in time. It would show a fair and square average, and no man couldsay it had done more or less than its duty. But a correct average isonly a mild virtue in a watch, and I took this instrument to anotherwatchmaker. He said the king-bolt was broken. I said I was glad it wasnothing more serious. To tell the plain truth, I had no idea what theking-bolt was, but I did not choose to appear ignorant to a stranger.He repaired the king-bolt, but what the watch gained in one way it lostin another. It would run awhile and then stop awhile, and then runawhile again, and so on, using its own discretion about the intervals.And every time it went off it kicked back like a musket. I padded mybreast for a few days, but finally took the watch to another watchmaker.He picked it all to pieces, and turned the ruin over and over under hisglass; and then he said there appeared to be something the matter withthe hair-trigger. He fixed it, and gave it a fresh start. It did wellnow, except that always at ten minutes to ten the hands would shuttogether like a pair of scissors, and from that time forth they wouldtravel together. The oldest man in the world could not make head or tailof the time of day by such a watch, and so I went again to have the thingrepaired. This person said that the crystal had got bent, and that themainspring was not straight. He also remarked that part of the worksneeded half-soling. He made these things all right, and then mytimepiece performed unexceptionably, save that now and then, afterworking along quietly for nearly eight hours, everything inside would letgo all of a sudden and begin to buzz like a bee, and the hands wouldstraightway begin to spin round and round so fast that theirindividuality was lost completely, and they simply seemed a delicatespider's web over the face of the watch. She would reel off the nexttwenty-four hours in six or seven minutes, and then stop with a bang.I went with a heavy heart to one more watchmaker, and looked on while hetook her to pieces. Then I prepared to cross-question him rigidly, forthis thing was getting serious. The watch had cost two hundred dollarsoriginally, and I seemed to have paid out two or three thousand forrepairs. While I waited and looked on I presently recognized in thiswatchmaker an old acquaintance--a steamboat engineer of other days, andnot a good engineer, either. He examined all the parts carefully, justas the other watchmakers had done, and then delivered his verdict withthe same confidence of manner.

  He said:

  "She makes too much steam-you want to hang the monkey-wrench on thesafety-valve!"

  I brained him on the spot, and had him buried at my own expense.

  My uncle William (now deceased, alas!) used to say that a good horse was,a good horse until it had run away once, and that a good watch was a goo
dwatch until the repairers got a chance at it. And he used to wonder whatbecame of all the unsuccessful tinkers, and gunsmiths, and shoemakers,and engineers, and blacksmiths; but nobody could ever tell him.